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USC Graduate Thesis Project Comes Together Through C4

Mojean Aria plays under-achiever Joe Franek in Abi Damaris Corbin’s short “The Suitcase.”

Technology took center stage at a special screening of USC graduate student Abi Damaris Corbin’s dramatic short “The Suitcase.”   Held at The London. West Hollywood on May 24th, teams from the film’s tech sponsors including Technicolor, The Walt Disney Company, Universal, and Equinix joined members of USC’s ETC – Entertainment Technology Center – to watch the fruit of their labor projected on screen.

“The Suitcase” represents the first stage of an innovative and universal means of managing data used in the creation of visual content called Cinema Content Creation Cloud, or C4. Developed by Cloud Architect Josh Kolden, C4 is “an open source framework for content creation using remote resources.”  Kolden is a twenty year VFX vet who has been instrumental in the development and implementation of many ground-breaking techniques.  He led a team at Digital Domain who perfected the digital human face replacement established in films including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  As the founder of Crack Creative, Kolden and his team refined the “virtual production” process originally created for “Avatar.”  Four years ago Kolden launched Studio Pyxis, a production studio that uses filmmaking technologies including automatic pixel accurate camera tracking and cloud-based rendering.  His mastery of cloud technologies led to his development of C4 – an open-source storage, computing and remote collaboration framework designed to create a universal workflow for media production.

Kolden selected Corbin’s “The Suitcase,” as the first graduate thesis project to be sponsored by the Entertainment Technology Center at USC with the “Innovation in Technology” grant, a grant that will continue to be awarded annually. Based on an article Corbin read, the short takes place on September 11, 2001 and follows a young under-achiever whose goals are loftier than his ambition.  Working as a baggage handler at Boston’s Logan International Airport, he stumbles across a hijacker’s tool kit: pilot’s hat, schematics of a plane and other instructions, while illegally rummaging through a diverted suitcase, forcing him to make a life-altering decision.   Recognizing the importance of balancing the artistic process with the need for a smoothly operating workflow, Kolden worked closely with Corbin to develop a universal identification system for the film’s assorted file assets.

The identification system, or C4 IDs, allow every type of file to be readily identifiable, regardless of their origin, location or format. The C4 ID that is created for the project is universally consistent within the organizations or individuals working on a project.  Put simply, a camera department’s files and a visual effect department’s files can be managed in two different systems, however the C4 ID will allow a director to call up any given file easily through their own network and asset management system.  All assets were accessible through the Cloud.

Through using open source technology, Kolden hopes more directors and producers will begin using the C4 system.

“People have become used to working in a specific way,” said Kolden. “We’re working towards leveraging the technology.”